An ice house was the perfect way for a mansion-owner to keep his cool

The Northern Echo: TIMES PAST: The coachman awaits at Pierremont’s grand entrance – the big arches have now been demolished TIMES PAST: The coachman awaits at Pierremont’s grand entrance – the big arches have now been demolished

HENRY PEASE’S sumptuous Darlington mansion Pierremont, and its fabulous grounds, have caused much comment since the article here a fortnight ago.

It is now five substantial family residences. Ian Mickler, who now lives in Putney Heath, in London, lived in one during the Seventies, and he has kindly sent in photos showing it in Pease’s pomp.

Wendy Acres, of Darlington, asked about the ice house, which was near Henry’s teardrop-shaped fishpond beside the Cocker Beck. Brinkburn Dene is on top of it now.

In the days before the refrigerator, a mansionowner would build a domed chamber in the side of one of his hills. It would be near his lake or fish pond so that when the water froze, his staff would shovel the ice into the underground chamber. They’d layer it with straw and sawdust, and the ice would survive for many months, possibly even a year.

The ice was used primarily to assist the storage of perishable foods, but inevitably the mansionowner would like a piece in his gin and tonic as well.

All of which got Dave Chapman, of Merrybent, near Darlington, thinking about other ice houses in the district. About five years ago, he came across one to the right of the driveway leading to Blackwell Grange hotel – there used to be an ornamental lake to the left of the drive. The ice house appears to now be amid dense overgrowth, and the lake is beneath the golf course.

Dave also recalls stumbling over Walworth Castle’s ice house opposite the castle’s gates.

There are supposed to be two ice houses in the grounds of the now demolished Blackwell Hill mansion next to the Tees, and Polam Hall used to have one beside the Skerne. In Hurworth, Hurworth House used to have an ice house when its gardens rolled down to the Tees.

The best ice house Echo Memories has ever visited was in the grounds of Forcett Hall in that fascinating territory to the west of Darlington.

It was beneath an artificial hill, with huge trees growing above it, and overlooking a man-made lake. You walked along a dark tunnel several cricket pitches long until you came to a vast brick-lined cavern.

A drain, protected by little sluice gates, flowed underneath the tunnel taking meltwater from the ice back to the lake.

Still in the Forcett area, there is rumoured to be an ice house beneath the ornamental deer house in the grounds of the now demolished Stanwick Hall, and there may also be one at Carlton.

Do you have any ice house information?

ANOTHER Pierremont question came from John Ellerton. in Cockerton, Darlington, whose deeds say the first purchaser of his house was one Walter Fell Pease, who paid £950 for it in 1928.

Henry Pease of Pierremont married Anna Fell in 1835 and, before her death three years later, they had one child: Henry Fell Pease (1838- 96).

Henry Fell Pease married a cousin, Elizabeth Mary Pease, in 1862 and with the help of his father built the Brinkburn mansion across the Cocker Beck from Pierremont.

And, a kind contributor to the Echo Memories blog points out that their eldest son was Walter Fell Pease, born in 1874.

■ If you have anything to add to today’s column, either contact us as above, and don’t forget to visit the Echo Memories blog on the paper’s website where there is much more about Pierremont and East Howle and many other subjects.

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